Chapter 4: Beastly Behaviour

Before I turn in, Farkas offers me some work for the following day: intimidate someone who’s been causing trouble in Whiterun.  He doesn’t get more specific than that, other than to tell me the name of my target.  Naturally it’s someone I haven’t met, so I pretty much know nothing else.  I accept the job, of course.  Wouldn’t do to refuse my very first assignment (especially in front of Farkas!) and it seems I have to build some status with the Companions before I’m considered to be one of them.  I might be in, for now, but it’s apparent I’m on trial.

The next day I’m off to get the job done.  I’m feeling pretty confident — after all, I shamed the farmer into helping that weird little guy with the cart, right?  So I just have to do whatever it was I did before.  No problem.  This so-called troublemaker will be putty in my hands.

It takes no time at all for me to find my target.  She’s practically right outside the mead hall doors, sitting under that big dead tree. I put on a stern face (okay, so I don’t have a clear idea of exactly what that is, yet), and approach her.

That's right. I'm talkin' to you.
That’s right. I’m talkin’ to you.

Unfortunately, whatever persuasive mojo I had before seems to have vanished.  She’s not even remotely intimidated, and worse yet, her punches really hurt.

WARNING: Priestess unsafe. Proceed with extreme caution.
WARNING: Priestess unsafe. Proceed with extreme caution.

Okay, so that didn’t go so well.  Thoroughly humiliated, and very sore, I pick myself up from the ground.  I hear a noise behind me, and half-expecting that my target has called for backup while I was in the fetal position, I spin around with my hands raised.

Oh, sod off.
Oh, sod off!

Bloody guards with their snark.  I can tell when I’m being mocked.  I dust myself off and make my way to see my old friend, the village blacksmith near the gate.  This is not over.

I don’t know who that priestess was, but it’s obvious she’s some kind of battle-hardened expert in the martial arts.  Probably worships an ancient Nord god of war known only in Skyrim, trained in a variety of weapon techniques as well as hand-to-hand combat.  Next time I’ll be better prepared.

After some discussion with Adrianne about how best to improve my gear, I’m back at work making some needed adjustments.  I craft myself some reinforced gloves, a pair of tougher boots, and a sleek leather hood that will deflect any blows to the head… I hope.

What every desperate amateur pugilist is wearing this year.
What every desperate amateur pugilist is wearing this year.

My armour sorted, I head back to my quarry. On the way I run into a couple having a domestic dispute.  Something about an old family sword that he’s obsessed about finding.  Men.  Typical.  They stubbornly stick to one idea even when it’s not working out — heck, even when they’ve humiliated themselves in front of everyone. You could punch them in the face and they’d still keep on going.  Wouldn’t even stop if they got hurt.  Definition of insanity, right there.

Aha, there’s that priestess!  Put ’em up, bitch!

Round Two -- FIGHT!
Round Two — FIGHT!

This time it’s going much better.  I manage to avoid the worst of her blows while landing a decent number myself.  We’re both tiring quickly, which surprises me.  You’d think a martial arts expert would have more stamina.

Finally she misses her footing and stumbles into the ditch.  Seeing my opportunity, I deliver the final blow, which sends her sprawling.

And let that be a lesson to you! (Please don't ask for a rematch.)
That’s right!  I hope you’ve learned your lesson!  (Please don’t ask for a rematch.)

She’s a remarkably good sport about her defeat, which I can’t help but admire.  All animosity between us has dissolved and now we’re practically sisters.  I help her out of the ditch and we sit down on a nearby bench, good-naturedly teasing each other about our mutual fighting prowess.

When we start comparing wounds, I’m astonished when she heals each one in the blink of an eye, almost off-handedly.  My own amateur healing ability is absurdly sloppy and inefficient next to her expertise.   How can she possibly… wait a minute…

You mean I got my ass kicked by a HEALER?!
You mean I got my ass kicked by a HEALER?!

Great, now I’m probably cursed for life.  Kynareth, the supreme goddess of the sky, isn’t going to look too kindly on someone beating the snot out of one of her chosen servants.  What kind of lame assignment was this anyway?!  I excuse myself and head straight back to Jorrvaskr.  Farkas and I need to have a little talk.

I charge up the steps to the mead hall.  All my tender sweet fantasies of Farkas have vanished straight to Oblivion.  I’m annoyed, exasperated, infuriated.  I’m sure I’ve been played.  He’s probably hiding in there laughing his ass off.  Well, no matter what it takes, I’ll find him.  I want his face under my boot, his head on a platter, his skull on a post.  I fling open the heavy oak doors like they’re made of paper and confront my tormentor.

You're damn lucky you're pretty.
…You’re damn lucky you’re pretty.

My anger dissolves, but I’m still irritated.  I think I’ve had enough of your assignments, thanks.  I’ll see what Aela’s got for me instead.

After some searching, I discover her out in the training yard with Skjor and Vilkas.   I ask her about work, crossing my fingers that it won’t involve priestesses or fisticuffs.  Turns out she’s got an assignment that’s very straightforward and practical.  I’m to clear out some beasts from a nearby den, as they’ve been threatening residents and travelers.  Sounds perfectly reasonable.  I’m in.

If you want me to eliminate beasts, I can start with Farkas. No charge.
If you want me to eliminate beasts, I can start with Farkas. No charge.

It’s nice to get sensible employment for a change, but I don’t have a lot of experience with animal control.  All I can recall is the occasional tavern skeever and a single giant spider.  It occurs to me that I could use some practice before I go out on this assignment.

Yesterday in the marketplace when I was asking some of the townsfolk how to find the Companions’ mead hall, I spoke to a Bosmer running a butcher stand.  As it turned out, he hunted all the game himself before preparing it for sale.  I noticed his selection was a little sparse that day, so perhaps he’d appreciate it if I supplied him with some more meat.  Okay, so I’ve never really hunted before, but lots of people live for the chase.  How hard can it be?

If this skinny little guy can do it...
If this skinny elf can do it…

I check over my bow and arrows, make sure I have plenty of room in my backpack, and head out of the city gates.  From our conversation yesterday, I remember that the Bosmer told me the plains around Whiterun were ripe with game.   Sweet.   This should be a cakewalk.

Several hours later, I’m tired, hot, and sweaty.  The sun has been beating down and I’m about ready to melt into a puddle.  My leather outfit feels like it’s lined in lead and there are several dark sweat-stains marking the edges of my hood.  There’s hardly any shade out here and I’ve already emptied two of my three waterskins.

“Ripe with game”, my ass.  The only available game I’ve seen all day are a couple of mudcrabs.  And that elf sure isn’t running a seafood stand.

Back off, Mr. Pinchy, or I introduce you to Mr. Wuffie.
Back off, Mr. Pinchy, or I introduce you to Mr. Wuffles.

Technically there’s other game out there, but it’s only a technicality.  First of all, they’re mammoths, and therefore rather dangerous, especially when I’m hunting alone.  Secondly, they seem to have made friends with a couple of giants, which only compounds the problem.  And finally, one of them has young.  They’ll fight to the death before they’ll leave their young behind.  I have a strong premonition I’d lose that fight and be trampled into fertilizer soon afterward.

Never get between a mother and her cubs... pups... colts... spawnlings...? Whatever!
Never get between a mother and her cubs… er, pups… colts… mammoth-lings?

I’m feeling pretty discouraged and about to head back into the city with nothing to show for my long day, when I crest a small hill.  Just in the shadow of the hillside is a flock of deer resting in the shade, and standing slightly apart is a large, majestic moose with massive antlers, acting as lookout.  Finally!  Actual game that’s… you know… gamey!

I drop to a crouch, nock an arrow, and aim for one of the does.  By Hircine, I actually hit her!  But unfortunately, it’s not even remotely close to a lethal spot.  She leaps up and takes off, with the rest of the herd running after her.  Right. So much for ever getting that arrow back.

I jump up, scanning the running deer to see which direction they’re headed.  Crap, deer are fast!  There’s no way I could ever keep up.  How do people catch these animals?

Suddenly I hear a strange noise behind me, something between a cough and a snort.   I turn around and a pair of antlers bash me in the face.

Erm... Nice moosey?
Skyrim: Home to the dread Ninja Moose.

It’s the lookout moose.  He circled around me without a sound, giving the herd a chance to escape, and now he’s out for blood.  Frantically I pull out my sword and start swinging as he lowers his head to bash me again.  I can’t believe this.  I’m not hunting, I’m locked in deadly combat with a freaking moose.  Worse yet, I’m losing!

This moose is clearly a veteran fighter.  His timing is perfect and his technique is exemplary.  I’m in real trouble here.  My sword isn’t making much headway as it’s mostly being deflected by antlers and hooves.  Running away isn’t an option as he’s a whole lot faster than I am.  Looks like I’m gonna be fertilizer after all.

He rears up to hit me with his hooves again, and I make a desperate lunge.  Miraculously my sword pierces his tough hide and finds a vital spot.  A couple more slashes and he staggers, pierces me with a glare of pure burning hatred, and crashes to the ground, dead.

Yay! I killed it! Erm... now what?
Yay! I killed it! Erm… now what?

Right.  I’m supposed to field butcher this or something.  I sure can’t drag it all the way back to Whiterun, and I doubt the guards would let me through the gates with a torn-up bloody moose corpse.  I guess I’ll have to, what, skin it?  Pretty sure there’s more to it, though.  Great.  Just great.  I’m exhausted but it’s plain my work has just begun.

It's dead, but I'm still battling with it.
It’s dead, but it’s still putting up a fight.

Hours go by.  I skin the pelt as best I can (that is, poorly — in the end it’s only good for making leather strips).  I extract some organs, remove the antlers, and try to remember which parts are useful in case I want to try alchemy.  It takes ages longer than I expected, and now I’m hungry and getting very chilled.   I drink a couple bottles of mead to keep out the cold and devour a large share of my provisions.

So. Much. Work. I think the moose won after all.
So. Much. Work. I think the moose won after all.

Finally I’m ready to butcher the meat and cut up the bigger chunks for transport.  This takes the longest of all.  When I’m finally finished, I’m hot, filthy, covered in blood and moose hair, and it’s getting dark already.  Wearily I dispose of the emptied carcass and most of the bones, leaving them under a tree for the wolves to gnaw, and I make my way back to Whiterun as the sun sets.

On the way back to Jorrvaskr, I stop by the Bannered Mare to refill my waterskins and use their cooking pot to replenish my provisions.  Hulda also offers me the use of a bathtub, which I gratefully accept.  The tub is more like a giant bucket, but I’m not inclined to be picky.

Rooms are 100 gold per night? Good thing I have other living arrangements.
So rooms are 100 gold per night, you say? Good thing I have other arrangements.

After my bath, I’m feeling more refreshed and optimistic.  Okay, so my first hunting trip didn’t quite go as planned, but I’d call it a success.  I stalked some deer and took down a moose.  I taught myself how to field dress, skin, and butcher a large animal.  Finally, I came out of it with a pelt of sorts, several items that I’m nearly certain are alchemy ingredients, and 19 chunks of fresh venison.   That’s pretty respectable by most standards.

I head back just as the moons are rising over the Companions’ mead hall.  I open the door to a welcome sight — tables full of hot steaming food.  Excellent timing!  It’s suppertime in Jorrvaskr, and I’m hungry again.  As I take a seat with the others, many of them greet me and then go back to their various conversations.  There’s a pleasant atmosphere of friendship and acceptance, and a warmth that isn’t solely from the fire and the delicious meal.

It’s good to be home.

I've even forgiven Farkas. Mostly.
And I’ve even forgiven Farkas. Mostly.
Hunting Grounds (approximate).
Hunting Grounds (approximate)

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